Saturday, March 28, 2015

Historical Australian Quilts[1]
Art Quilts

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Historical Australian Quilts
Aboriginal women were the first Australian women to make patchwork quilts in the form of cloaks and blankets using possum and kangaroo pelts. Sometimes the skins were sewn together whole; others were roughly cut into rectangular pieces and stitched together with “bone needles” or awls. These were poked through the hide and then the sinew from kangaroo legs was pushed through holes, stitching the pieces together. Sometimes these early cloaks or quilts were decorated on the inner surface by scouring or slashing the chamois to make patterns.

Aboriginal possum skin coat - the first Australian patchwork. The inner surface was scratched and painted in totemic designs.
Courtesy of National Museum of Victoria (Australia).

Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, Registration No: 5803.
Animal: Possum.
Place: Australia near Sydney (Probably from the Hunter River area).
Collector: Wilkes exploring expedition.
Date: 1838 - 42.
Size: Length - 58 inches; Width - 57 inches.
Description: Features rectangular pelts the skins are laid in 4 rows of six skins each, and sewn on the back, edge to edge with very fine overhand stitching of cotton cord sinew. Fur has been left on and the backside of the skins are completely covered with large diamond shaped designs made by scrapping up a thin layer of the skin so that it stands up in a little curl.

Victorian Koories (aboriginal tribe) of the Upper Yarra Valley (Victoria, Australia) in 1858. Those standing are wearing possum-skin patch-worked cloaks while those seated have European blankets.

The tradition of European quilting and patchwork originally came to Australia from England during transportation of convicts to its Sydney colony (NSW) in the 19th Century. There are some reports that Elizabeth Fry gave women who migrated to Australia material patches to produce quilts during their voyage to NSW. Many of the early 19th Century quilts in Australia obviously travelled here with families; however, the practice continued in Australia by the Europeans out of necessity as well as custom. The early quilts made with patches of fabrics were generally of log cabin, central medallion or hexagonal designs.

Patchwork log cabin design - silk, velvet and brocade.
Mary Anne Abigail Montgomery from Sunny Corner (Bathurst, NSW) was born ca. 1840. She had her first child in 1863 and then a further nine. She made a patchwork quilt for every daughter. Above are cushions she made for her newly born daughter after her mother’s death in 1920 from left hand-sewn quilted sections.
Photograph Courtesy of K. Atkinson.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Corner of one of Mary’s quilts. Although faded and torn with use and age, it still remains beautiful.
Photograph Courtesy of K. Atkinson.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Patchwork quilt of log cabin design composed into a checkerboard pattern. Made by Sarah Monument between 1910 and 1928.
Size: 155 x 141 cm.
Collection: Australian National Gallery.

Hexagonal design patchwork rug possibly made for a miner’s bed, early in 1900s ( Melbourne, Australia).
It is made as a cylinder in a continuous narrow piece without side seams. It was made in the early 1900s in Melbourne (Australia) and may have been used on a miner’s couch. The fabrics used were an array of men’s ties, dress materials, men’s suitings and trouser material and woven skirting.
Photograph Courtesy of H. Herbert.
Courtesy of Pioneer Women’s Hut Museum, Tumbarumba, NSW (Australia).

Detail photograph of the inner filling of the above the quilt (i.e. an old blanket, a bedspread and a strip of ticking).
Photograph Courtesy of H. Herbert.

Quilts as an art form were recognized late in Australia compared to the US. In 1985 the Australian Wool Corporation, in conjunction with a women’s craft group “Running Stitch” put together an exhibition of wool quilts, old and new, serving as a timely survey of traditional quilt making in Australia as well as a presentation of the art of contemporary quilting.

View of the "Running Stitch" collection on display at the National Wool Museum.
The founding members of “Running Stitch” were Barbara Macey, Lois Densham, Jan Ross-Manley and Susan Denton, with Deborah Brearley joining in 1995. They all shared a collective passion for their medium and for our Australian quilt heritage.

To give a feel with respect to the nature of European quilt making in Australia, perhaps the address of Annette Gero (a textile historian) that was recorded in the catalogue of that exhibition gives an inkling of how quilts reflected the life of women who made them:
"Once they were regarded as bed covers. But they were never just bed covers. They were artistic expression of countless, anonymous women reflecting lifestyle around them. There were women’s political and historical statements. There were memories of the deceased, memories of childhood garments, memories of miscarriages, memories of weddings, memories of eminent people, and they generally reflected the lifestyle of women throughout every era.".

Her historical observations are particularly apt for patchwork quilting, since it used pieces of material with long associations in the household. Hence patchwork quilts were memory warehouses for the generations who witnessed them later; family members could point to old fabric in the quilt they recognized as having been made up of old curtains or a woolen insertion from grandfather’s trousers etc.

Patchwork quilt cover made for a holiday cabin by Isabel Bellingham (ca. 1943, Sydney, Australia). It was made from scraps of old material including silks, cottons, dress lengths, tea towels and curtains. The quilt contains simple designs such as boats, fish and floral materials of the 1920s. Her quilt provides almost a history of Australian fabric over three decades from about 1910 to 1945 when it was made. It is backed with a simple rug and has no filling.
Size: 200 x 120 cm.
Photograph Courtesy of M. Courtney.
Courtesy of reference[1].

“Crazy” patchwork was widely popular in Australia from 1880 until World War I. Rich, heavy fabrics with sheen, such as plush, sateen and brocade, were cut into haphazardly shaped pieces and then joined together in a jigsaw fashion to a background fabric. Surfaces tended to reflect the Victorian love of ornate decorations as the edges were further embellished with embroidery in herringbone or featherstitch. Australian touches can be seen in many small, surface types of embroidery, often worked in chenille thread, which featured items like wattle, emus, wallabies or coat of arms.

Detail of a bed-size crazy patchwork quilt in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia.
It includes Australian imagery of a billy (i.e. black kettle) and emu.
Photograph Courtesy of S. Schrapel.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Shelf runner of crazy patchwork made by Ellen Stone, Melbourne (Australia) ca. 1892.
Photograph Courtesy of H. Herbert.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Historical quilts in Australia divided into two groups: waggas, bush rugs and patchwork (the “waste not want not” tradition) and decorative quilts (reflecting local history, mottos or stories in the folk art tradition).

“Time” patchwork, applique and embroidered quilt, signed by M.J.H. (1924).
In the folk art tradition.
She appears to be farewelling her loved ones with portents of her future death:
O tis a lovely little flower,
That blue forget me not
We see it blooming on the grave
Of one who seems forgot
Size: 164 x 154 cm.

The origin of the word "wagga" was thought to be derived from the finely woven "Wagga Lily Flour" sacks made by the Murrumbidgee Flour Milling Co-operative in Wagga Wagga, a rural town in NSW (Australia). However, they were made known across Australia and were given different names such as a “bluey”, “bush rug”, “wogger”, “Sydney blanket” or a “Murrumbidgee rug”.

They all seem to share the same construction methods and were made mostly by men living “on the road” and working in itinerant occupations on the land such as shearing, droving and fencing. Waggas were made of materials commonly found in a shed such as jute wheat bags and wool packs, opened out and stitched together along the seams with twine.

Calico and hessian produced bags ca. 1915 – 1950. These were opened and the stitching removed. They were used as inside covers of bush rugs or as the backing to a patchwork upper surface.
Photograph Courtesy of H. Herbert.
Courtesy of reference[1].

During the 1930s, the domestic burden carried by women was huge. Family survival often depended on women's initiative and skills to clothe and feed the family, furnish the home and literally “make the bedding”. Women made domestic waggas for use in the home, which could be as simple as wheat or chaff bags stitched together and enclosed within a cotton cover made of simple patchwork. Otherwise, pieces of old clothing or bedding were laid flat and roughly stitched together, sometimes making quite a heavy quilt. Often these waggas or quilts were made with some thought for an aesthetic design however humble the intent.

Bush rug from suiting by Minnie Stewart of Jamberoo, NSW (Australia) ca. 1920s.
Photograph Courtesy of H. Herbert.
Courtesy of reference[1].

One unique quilt - known as the Fitzpatrick inn quilt - is one of the most remarkable decorative embroidered bed covers. The quilt is composed of squares of bright red cotton sewn together. These are embroidered with thick white cotton thread in a raised technique akin to Mountymellick work. Each square, with its own image, is arranged around a central motif of the embroidered portrait of Queen Victoria, crown and holding a sceptre. She is set in a garland of roses (England), thistles (Scotland) and shamrocks (Ireland). The word “Victoria the Good 1900” are embroidered, as well as the crown above her head with the initials “V.R.” signifying Victoria Regina.

Queen Victoria Quilt 1900 – 1903, patchwork and embroidery.
Courtesy of reference[1].

The quilt offers images of rural domesticity, with farm animals and with intriguing adages such as: “When a woman throws herself at a man she seldom hits the mark”.

Details of the sometimes intriguing thoughts of the quilt maker.
Photograph Courtesy of L. Zeng.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Knitting can be described as “…the making of rows of loops with continuous thread”. Generally knitted curtains and valences have not stood the test of time. Bedspreads, often still in use have with the antimacassars and d’oyleys the best of the lot. The “Edis quilt” has been preserved and kept for successive generations. It is a fine example of the hand knitted white bedspreads of the 19th Century. It was made by Miss Selina Edis when she lived in Kyabram, Victoria (Australia). Due to her brother having three marriages which ended in tragedy (all three wives died in succession leaving him to bring up his children on his own), she decided to forgo a married life and help him care for his children.

Knitted quilt by Selina Edis (ca. 1890).
Courtesy of reference[1].

Photographs of Selina (left) and her brother’s children (right).
Courtesy of reference[1].

[1] J. Isaacs, The Gentle Arts, Ure Smith Press, Willoughby, 1991.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Artist's Profile

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Mucha – Fine-Art Prints[1]
On Christmas Eve 1894, while correcting proofs for his friend Kadár in the offices of Lemercier in Paris, Alphonse Marie Mucha was asked by the director of the company, Maurice de Brunhoff, through want of any artist, to design a poster featuring Sarah Bernhardt for Sardou’s play Gismonda. That same night Mucha made studies of Bernhardt at the Theatre de la Renaissance and afterwards sketched the first design on a marble top in a nearby café. All elements that made the poster an instant success – accentuated contours, curves and circles, the decorative use of natural features, and formalize stars and mosaic motifs – were all present in the crude sketch. When the full scale designs were shown to Bernhardt she was delighted and it was a tribute to Mucha, in an age of great poster artists like Cherét and Toulouse-Lautrec, that Bernhardt felt her dramatis persona had been successfully captured in graphic form for the first time by him.

Because of the great urgency for the poster Mucha drew the design directly onto a lithographic plate and it was produced quickly between 24th December 1894 and 1st January 1895.

Gismonda seemed to herald a new style, its strength lying in the restrained use of color – rose, violet, green, brown and gold (the colors of autumn) and in the sensuous and sensitive line of the drawing. Berhardt is portrayed holding a palm-leaf, her head framed by a Byzantine mosaic frieze containing Bernhardt’s name and above the title of the play. Mucha denied any influence of the dress and drape of the work - other than the traditions of folk-ornamentation of his native Czech.

Gismonda ca. 1894.
Size: 217 x 75 cm.

He had little in common with the contemporary Realists and Impressionists Schools in Paris, being primarily a stylist and linearist and so not concerned with textural and tonal relationships. To this end Mucha employed photography to assist him in his designs, not to inform him about the detail of his subject, but to capture broad outlines of pose, drapery and how it informed a continuous sweeping movement of the subject's clothes. To this end there exists in hindsight a familiarity to the ancient Greek customs - devoid of pleats - being replaced with folds that drape the body form.

Princess Hyacinth ca. 1911.
Size: 117 x 78 cm.

The recognition which the Gismonda poster brought was followed by years of hard work. The period from 1895 to 1897, when he was working for Bernhardt and under contract fro the printing firm Champenois, was especially prolific. It was during this time that he produced many of the panneaux decoraifs, calendars, advertisements and menu cards.

Cycles Perfects ca. 1897.
Size: 150 x 105 cm.

Each of the panneaux - small posters printed on stiff paper or silk and used as decorative wall panels or screens – were originated through a series of studies until the final design was executed in pencil, crayon, pastel or watercolour. This was traced on lithographic stone, and Mucha himself, in the early days, would color the monochrome proofs.

Monaco – Monte Carlo 1897.
Size: 110 x 76 cm.

Mucha’s posters were usually an elongated rectangular shape and often extending to seven feet in height, which in turn lent to his invariably female subject a form of svelte elegance, which we now associate with fashion photography. However, it should be noted Mucha’s subjects were not coat hangers in form, which in recent years has become the staple look, due to designers believing that clothes drape so much more elegantly on coat hangers. Mucha showed that it is not the body form but the posture and how the clothes fold and drape that yield a sensuous substance to the shape.

Moet & Chandon Imperial, 1899.
Size: 58 x 19 cm.

Mucha’s women were inevitably young, beautiful, sensuous and provocative. Their voluptuous poses were accentuated by the natural curves of the feminine figure. This inevitably led to accusations that he was corrupting the youth, which was absurd in the context of such artists that were surrounding the youth in his time (e.g. Post Impressionist Gauguin). Perhaps it rather reflects the disconnect of the Victorian Era from any sensual and overtly sexual activity.

Nectar, 1899.
Size: 64 x 26 cm.

Between 1895 and 1905 his major published works were distinguished by a unity of conception and execution, which led to the description in France of all work in the Art Nouveau style as being in "le style Mucha" (even though Mucha argued that the term "Art Nouveau" was not valid since “Art is eternal, it cannot be new”).

Tete Byzantine-Brunette, panneau ca. 1897.
Size: 34 x 28 cm.

Mucha’s oeuvre extended with time from mixed media of theatre design – scenery, costumes and publicity material – to architecture, bank notes and even policemen’s uniforms. But it was his graphic work, which he is primarily known for and remembered.

Lierre, panneau 1901.
Size: 53 x 39 cm.

The rising tide of fascism during the late 1930s resulted in Mucha's works and his Slavic nationalism being denounced in the press as "reactionary". When German troops moved into Czechoslovakia during the spring of 1939, Mucha was among the first persons to be arrested by the Gestapo. During his interrogation, the aging artist became ill with pneumonia. Though released eventually, he may have been weakened by this event. He died in Prague on 14th of July 1939, due to lung infection, and was interned in the Vysehraf cemetery.

Automne, panneau ca. 1900.
Size: 70 x 30 cm.

For further information about Mucha and his work - please purchase reference [1]. It will be a wonderful addition to your library.

La Lune, panneau, 1902.
Size: 59 x 23 cm.

[1] Mucha, Academy Additions, London (1976).

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Musings of A Textile Tragic
Textile Tasters from My Workshops
March, 2015 - Issue 117

Art Essay (TFF Column)

Co-Editor: Marie-Therese Wisniowski

The largest selling textile magazine in Australasia is Textile Fibre Forum (TFF). I am the co-editor of the magazine (its founder - Janet de Boer - being the other co-editor). Hence I have created a column within the magazine titled – Musings of a Textile Tragic. This column will appear on this blogspot together with a link and contents page of each new issue of the quarterly magazine once it is available from magazine outlets and on the ArtWear Publications website.

Front Cover of TFF (March, 2015 - Issue 117).

For your convenience, I have listed links to other Musings articles:
Musings of a Textile Tragic
Co-Editor of TFF
Of Fires and Flooding Rain
Lost in Translation
Venusian Men
The Artwork of Youth
Be Brave, The Rest Will Follow

Contents Page of TFF - March 2015 Edition(Issue Number 117)

Musings of A Textile Tragic - Textile Tasters From My Workshops
I have given numerous workshops throughout Australia, Europe and North America. Some were hosted by Janet de Boer and Glenys Mann, others by organizations such as the Australian Textile Arts & Surface Design Association (ATSADA) and the Surface Design Association (SDA), some by businesses such as Zijdelings and Art Quill & Co. and others by small community groups such Stitching and Beyond in Tasmania and the ACT Textile Arts Association in Canberra and others in art galleries. My workshops range in duration - one to five days - and in levels - from novice through to Master classes. My workshop participants have ranged in ages from their mid teens to octogenarians. Although women have dominated my classes there have been a sprinkling of men who have been brave to weather such a sexist environment!

Most tutors develop their own style of teaching. Mine is simple being largely based on Piaget’s theory of pedagogical development. He claims there are four stages that we all travel through in our quest to learn. The first stage is what is called the reflexive stage. This is the stage where we need to mimic someone else’s art marks. Remember those old movies in which you would see an artist painstakingly mimic a master painter’s artwork in a museum. This is then the reflexive stage.

The second stage is the pre-operational stage. Here artistic thought is no longer restricted to immediate perceptual events; that is, you need a representation in your immediate reach in order to ape it. Artistic thought is now representational (symbolic) and artistic behaviour can be played out in one’s mind rather than only in a real physical event (i.e. only via your hands as you mimic a work). This stage is still restricted in that reverse engineering is a difficult chore for the person to do. For example, they see a finished ArtCloth work by another artist but they are still unable to perceive what techniques, materials and implements were used to create the work.

The third stage is the concrete operational stage. Here the artist has evolved logical operations, but these operations are only useful to the artist in solving artistic problems involving (real, observable) objects and events. Therefore if the artist was presented with clear instructions - without demonstrations and constant problem solving by their tutor - their progress would be severely curtailed.

The last stage is the formal stage. Here the artist is able to construct an intention, commandeer the skill set necessary to implement the intention, evaluate objectively the progress of the work and whether it conforms to the original intention and if not - modify either the original intention or the skill set and outcomes in order to create a unique and interesting body of work.

What I do to plan a workshop is more difficult. I give my students copious notes with clear behavioural objectives (i.e. what a student should achieve after each project has been completed). Of course I am there to guide students through every project (some need more guidance than others). Moreover, the order of projects are of paramount importance since the order of the projects assist in developing from basic skills to more layered and complex skills as well as to drive the students through the four stages of cognitive development.

A very important aspect of all workshops is to create an atmosphere of wanting to learn, wanting to share knowledge and wanting to exchange experiences. The atmospherics is so important. I am always amazed how generous workshop participants are to each other in sharing their equipment to sharing acquired knowledge (e.g. “This is how she did it”).

I have often learnt from my students since they do not leave their life experiences at the door when they enter my workshop, rather they bring these experiences with them. The formal thinking projects (and I don’t mean strict but rather capable of developing abstract ideas) are the fun part for me. How often did I say to myself - “Heck. What an amazing idea!” Learning from your students is definitely a very important benefit of being a tutor. So please let me share some of the textile tasters from them. It is a delight for me to re-visit them. The only problem is that due to space limitations I could only show a few of these workshop outputs.

All photos below by Marie-Therese Wisniowski unless otherwise stated.

Section View of Jeannie Henrys’ hand printed textile length. Photo courtesy Jeannie Henry.

Detail view of Jeannie Henrys’ hand printed textile length.

Cover Image Details: Artist Jeannie Henry attended my ‘Image Dreamings: Basic Screen Printing’ class and created exciting multiple layers of complex imagery after the class when she returned to her studio. The printed textile started as a piece of 100 cm x 90 cm white broadcloth. Screen printed and stenciled sun and moon images were printed randomly over the fabric in blended green and blue fabric paint. A hand cut stencil of a hibiscus was overprinted randomly in reds and greens. Smaller screen printed images of a hibiscus were then overprinted in green creating additional layers of depth to the piece. She enhanced some of the hibiscus petal shapes by hand painting them with red fabric paint. Lastly, to unify the piece she hand painted the remaining white fabric background with yellow fabric paint.

The following images show student works from some of my ‘In Pursuit of ArtCloth’ series of workshops.

Merody Buglar, Deconstructed and polychromatic screen printing.

Gail McDonald, Improvisational screen printing.

Maz Beeston, Improvisational screen printing.

Philippa Leask, Disperse dye and transfer printing.

Trisha Smith, Disperse dye and transfer printing.

Kelcie Bryant-Duguid, Disperse dye and transfer printing.

Barbara McLennan, Disperse dye and transfer printing.

Judi Crawford, Disperse dye and transfer printing.

Trish Newham, Complex Cloth: layered printing approaches.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Fiber Blends[1-2]
Art Resource

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

This is the thirty-seventh post in the "Art Resource" series, specifically aimed to construct an appropriate knowledge base in order to develop an artistic voice in ArtCloth.

Other posts in this series are:
Glossary of Cultural and Architectural Terms
Units Used in Dyeing and Printing of Fabrics
Occupational, Health & Safety
A Brief History of Color
The Nature of Color
Psychology of Color
Color Schemes
The Naming of Colors
The Munsell Color Classification System
Methuen Color Index and Classification System
The CIE System
Pantone - A Modern Color Classification System
Optical Properties of Fiber Materials
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part I
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part II
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part III
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part IV
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part V
Protein Fibers - Wool
Protein Fibers - Speciality Hair Fibers
Protein Fibers - Silk
Protein Fibers - Wool versus Silk
Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff
Cellulosic Fibers (Natural) - Cotton
Cellulosic Fibers (Natural) - Linen
Other Natural Cellulosic Fibers
General Overview of Man-Made Fibers
Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers - Viscose
Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers - Esters
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Nylon
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Polyester
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Acrylic and Modacrylic
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Olefins
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Elastomers
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Mineral Fibers
Man Made Fibers - Other Textile Fibers
Fiber Blends
From Fiber to Yarn: Overview - Part I
From Fiber to Yarn: Overview - Part II
Melt-Spun Fibers
Characteristics of Filament Yarn
Yarn Classification
Direct Spun Yarns
Textured Filament Yarns
Fabric Construction - Felt
Fabric Construction - Nonwoven fabrics
A Fashion Data Base
Fabric Construction - Leather
Fabric Construction - Films
Glossary of Colors, Dyes, Inks, Pigments and Resins
Fabric Construction – Foams and Poromeric Material
Glossary of Fabrics, Fibers, Finishes, Garments and Yarns
Weaving and the Loom
Similarities and Differences in Woven Fabrics
The Three Basic Weaves - Plain Weave (Part I)
The Three Basic Weaves - Plain Weave (Part II)
The Three Basic Weaves - Twill Weave
The Three Basic Weaves - Satin Weave
Figured Weaves - Leno Weave
Figured Weaves – Piqué Weave
Figured Fabrics
Glossary of Art, Artists, Art Motifs and Art Movements
Crêpe Fabrics
Crêpe Effect Fabrics
Pile Fabrics - General
Woven Pile Fabrics
Chenille Yarn and Tufted Pile Fabrics
Knit-Pile Fabrics
Flocked Pile Fabrics and Other Pile Construction Processes
Glossary of Paper, Photography, Printing, Prints and Publication Terms
Napped Fabrics – Part I
Napped Fabrics – Part II
Double Cloth
Multicomponent Fabrics
Knit-Sew or Stitch Through Fabrics
Finishes - Overview
Finishes - Initial Fabric Cleaning
Mechanical Finishes - Part I
Mechanical Finishes - Part II
Additive Finishes
Chemical Finishes - Bleaching
Glossary of Scientific Terms
Chemical Finishes - Acid Finishes
Finishes: Mercerization
Finishes: Waterproof and Water-Repellent Fabrics
Finishes: Flame-Proofed Fabrics
Finishes to Prevent Attack by Insects and Micro-Organisms
Other Finishes
Shrinkage - Part I
Shrinkage - Part II

There are currently eight data bases on this blogspot, namely, the Glossary of Cultural and Architectural Terms, Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff, A Fashion Data Base, the Glossary of Colors, Dyes, Inks, Pigments and Resins, the Glossary of Fabrics, Fibers, Finishes, Garments and Yarns, Glossary of Art, Artists, Art Motifs and Art Movements, Glossary of Paper, Photography, Printing, Prints and Publication Terms and the Glossary of Scientific Terms, which has been updated to Version 3.5. All data bases will be updated from time-to-time in the future.

If you find any post on this blog site useful, you can save it or copy and paste it into your own "Word" document etc. for your future reference. For example, Safari allows you to save a post (e.g. click on "File", click on "Print" and release, click on "PDF" and then click on "Save As" and release - and a PDF should appear where you have stored it). Safari also allows you to mail a post to a friend (click on "File", and then point cursor to "Mail Contents On This Page" and release). Either way, this or other posts on this site may be a useful Art Resource for you.

The Art Resource series will be the first post in each calendar month. Remember - these Art Resource posts span information that will be useful for a home hobbyist to that required by a final year University Fine-Art student and so undoubtedly, some parts of any Art Resource post may appear far too technical for your needs (skip over those mind boggling parts) and in other parts, it may be too simplistic with respect to your level of knowledge (ditto the skip). The trade-off between these two extremes will mean that Art Resource posts will hopefully be useful in parts to most, but unfortunately may not be satisfying to all!

Different fibers may be blended into one yarn. Filaments may be mixed before twisting; staple fibers may be combined at different stages in the spinning process.

A blended yarn or fabric combines the characteristics of its component fibers or filaments, and so blending can be used to modify performance in a number of different areas. For example, cotton and wool are often blended with nylon and polyester to improve durability; an expensive fiber such as cashmere or mohair is blended with a cheaper fiber such as wool to give an expensive handle for a fraction of the cost; fibers with different dye affinities are blended to give subtle color effects in piece-dyed fabrics.

Reasons for Blending Fibers
Blending of fibers is done for several reasons:
(i) To obtain cross-dyed effects or to create new colour effects such as heather. For example, when fibers with unlike dye affinity are blended together and then piece-dyed.
(ii) To improve spinning, weaving and finishing efficiency for uniformity of product. For example, as with self blends of natural fibers in order to improve their uniformity.
(iii) To obtain better texture, hand or fabric appearance. A small amount of a specialty wool may be used to give a buttery or slick hand to the whole fabrics - or a small amount of rayon may give luster and softness to a cotton fabric. Fibers with different shrinkage properties are blended to produce bulky and lofty fabrics or fur-like fabrics with guard hairs.
(iv) For economic reasons. Expensive fibers can be extended by blending them with cheaper more plentiful fibers. This use may be misleading to the consumer especially when the expensive fiber is used sparingly but is advertised on the tag in large print (e.g. CASHMERE and wool blend).
(v) To produce fabrics with better performance. This is perhaps the major reason for blending. In end uses where durability is very important, nylon or polyester blended with wool or cotton provide strength and resistance to abrasion, while the cotton and wool look is maintained. A classic example is durable-press garments where 100% cotton fabrics are not as durable as polyester/cotton blends.

In the above chart some fiber properties are rated. Notice that each fiber is deficient in one or more important properties. Hence, different blends are used in order to make up for some of these deficiencies.
Courtesy of reference [2].

Blending is a complicated and expensive process, but it makes it possible to build in a combination of properties that are permanent. Not only are blends used for better functionality of fabrics, but they are also used for beauty of appearance and to create a better fabric handle.

Properties of Some Blended Fibers
The properties of different yarns and fabrics depend on the component fibers and on the yarn structure.

The different fibers in yarns may be combined in a number of ways. If blending takes place early such as during processing (e.g. during opening) it results in a more intimate and uniform blend. The coarser fiber will yield to the fabric its characteristic touch and handle, masking the effects of any fine and costlier fibers in the blend. If fibers of the same diameter but different stiffness or rigidity are blended, the stiffer fiber, because it resists twisting will remain on the outside of the yarn, and so will dictate the handle characteristics of the fabric. Some spinning processes (e.g. Coverspun) are specifically designed to give a non-uniform distribution of the component fibers. Hence, in this case, each fiber in a 50:50 blend may not contribute equally to the final yarn or fabric properties. In practice, it is therefore very difficult to predict exactly what the characteristics of the blend will be.

Different blend types in a fiber.
Courtesy of reference [1].

Viyella - a non-uniform blend of cotton and wool.
Note: The wool fibers being coarser than the cotton, end up on the outside of the yarn, giving a wool handle to the fabric, which launders like cotton.
Courtesy of reference [1].

Blending of fibers is now commonplace in clothing. For example, polyesters have a low affinity for water, since they are hydrophobic. However, because of the absence of water in the fiber polymer system, polyesters cannot dissipate static electricity build, which attracts oily and greasy particles, causing soiling that is difficult to remove. The fiber is resilient and crease-resistant, but tends to feel uncomfortable on hot days, since it cannot absorb perspiration well. An approach in overcoming this uncomfortable feel on hot days is to highly twist the yarn, but with a loosely woven structure. However, the most practical solution is to blend polyester with cotton. The poly/cotton blends have been a success in apparel manufacture (and not only from a cost view point). The mixtures of cotton, and polyester fibres of similar diameter to the cotton fiber, are also crimped with the polyester fibres and are then cut into staple lengths to match the cotton staple that is in the blend.

In blends of polyester and cotton, the cotton fibers provide a crisp, cool handle and the comfort of moisture absorbency. Polyester gives the blend excellent crease recovery and drip-dry properties. However, the major problem with such a blend is pilling. The polyester fibers are stronger than the cotton fibers, and with abrasion during use, will break. They cannot fall away from the fabric since they are “tied down” by strong fibers of polyester. Pill resistant polyester cotton blends have been developed, which entails just weakening the polyester fibers to a similar strength to the cotton fibers.

Polymer blending creates the possibility of a whole new class of fibers called - multipolymer fiber.

Blend Levels
For a specific end-use,a blend of fibers that complement each other (see above) will give a more satisfactory all-round performance than a 100% fiber fabric. In his article, "Fiber Translation in Blends", M.J. Caplan used the following example to show that a blend will yield a fabric with intermediate values. He took two fibers labelled A and B, each of which could be used to make a similar fabric, and measured five performance properties of each of these 100% fabrics. He then redacted the performance properties of a 50-50% blend by averaging the values of each fabric in the blend. For example, for performance property 1 fabric A had say a 12 level performance whereas fabric B had a 4 level performance. Hence the 50-50% blend would be predicted to have: (12+4)/2 = 8 level performance.

Hypothetical properties of a 100% fabric A and B and their predicted value for a 50-50% blend. Courtesy of reference [2].

The higher the level of performance the greater its utility. For example, say property 1 was resistant to abrasion and fabric A was polyester and fabric B was cotton, then it would be predicted that a 50-50% blend of polyester and cotton blend yields a fabric that was less resistant to abrasion than polyester (level 12) but twice as much resistance to abrasion than a fabric made from cotton only (level 8 compared to level 4).

Whilst this is a simplistic exercise, in reality blends behave in far more complex manner. For example, a very small amount of nylon (15%) improves the strength of wool, but 60% nylon is needed to improve the strength of rayon. More importantly, there are other properties that need to be considered. Improving the strength of a fabric may be desirable, but is it the be all and end all of the exercise. For example, the blended fabric may be strong but if its handle is slippery on the skin, would you feel comfortable wearing it as an under garment? Perhaps not!

Blending Methods
Blending can be done at any stage prior to the spinning operation. Blending can be done during opening-picking, drawing and roving. One of the disadvantages of direct spinning is that blending cannot be done before the sliver is formed.

The earlier the fibers are blended in processing the better the blend.

Cross-section of yarn showing the location of the fibers in the blend.
Courtesy of reference [2].

The above sketch shows a cross section of yarn A, in which fibers were blended in the opening, and yarn B, a yarn in which fibers were blended at the roving stage.

Variations occur from spot to spot in the yarn and also from inside to outside. Long, fine fibers tend to move to the centre of a yarn, while coarse, shorter fibers migrate to the periphery of the yarn - see C in the diagram above. The older methods of blending involve much hand labor.

Opening Picking
In one method, several bales of fiber are laid around the picker and an armful from each bale are fed alternatively into the machine. Another method is called sandwich blending. The desired amounts of each fiber are weighed out and a layer of each is spread over the preceding layer to build up a sandwich composed of many layers. Vertical sections are taken through the sandwich and fed into the picker. See sketch below.

Sandwich blending of wool.
Courtesy of reference [2].

Feeder blending is an automatic process in which each type of fiber is fed to a mixing apron from individual hoppers (see diagram below).

Feeder blends.
Courtesy of reference [2].

Blending on the Drawing Frame
When the physical properties of two fibers differ, it is not always practical to blend them before carding, so they are picked and carded separately and then blended in the drawing frame. The problem of mixed wastes is eliminated with this process.

Blending on the Roving and Spinning Frame
Both these operations combine fiber strands to reduce size and increased amount of twist until the final size and twist are achieved. The primary purpose at this stage is to blend for a particular hue.

[1] A Fritz and J. Cant, Consumer Textiles, Oxford University Press, Melbourne (1986).
[2] N. Hollen and J. Saddler, Textiles, 3rd Edition, Collier-Macmillan Ltd., London (1968).